There are many people who like to gather with sinners. They like to indulge themselves into whatever is base, but at the same time may feel that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the group or their shared activities. They find solace in the echo chamber of the affirmations they receive for their selfish and often hurtful opinions and they are able to convince each other of their strength, dignity and high mindedness. There is security in numbers and sadly, power, control and persuasion.
There is a difference in the group of sinners that Jesus hangs with. These sinners are at least open to the possibility of repentance and a change in their attitudes, lifestyle and choices. Jesus has a way of attracting sinners who are at least open to the possibility of turning away from the echo chamber that is their former groups of mutual appreciation. Jesus attracts and challenges those who begin to see themselves as they really are and not the false persona they have constructed for themselves. Jesus, in a manner of speaking, is able to attract his group of sinners by holding up a mirror for them to look into and see who they really are. Jesus is able to shoot down all of the rationale and false rhetoric of their flimsy morality and assumed holiness…and they listen to him.
The weird thing about today’s Gospel, if it were to take place today, is that those who think they would be among Jesus’ group of sinners would likely be in the other group of people described in the Gospel. Many of those who have assumed their role of the holy and pious are literally no different than the scribes and pharisees of Jesus’ time. As it was in the time of Jesus, it is still true to this day, those who should get it don’t and those who shouldn’t get it do. The group of sinners Jesus hangs with know their weaknesses and sinful tendencies and the rest do not.